Monday, September 16, 2013 A Cautionary Tale

I am about to relate to you the sad story of something I did.  A very stupid thing.  Then, I'm going to need for you to tell me your story.  Surely, you have one.  I imagine that everyone does.  I just need to know that I'm not alone out in the world of "I Signed Up for WHAT?"

First, I'll confess something that Alan and I did years ago.  We rented a phone from Southwestern Bell.  Remember going into those stores and looking at different models of phones?  There were princess phones, wall phones, rotary phones, new-fangled push button phones.  Oh, and the colors!  Blue, pink, deep green, red, yellow!  As newlyweds, we felt so mature as we marched into the phone store to pick out our first "married" phone for our new one bedroom apartment.  We had to be very careful about our choice because some phones cost more to RENT than others.  Key word:  RENT.

Yeeeeeeeears after we made our first phone purchase, it occurred to me that we still had that old rental phone.  One day it dawned on me that we should probably figure out where to return it because we hadn't really used it for a long time.  I felt guilty about giving the phone to Goodwill since we didn't technically own it.  Phone stores as we once knew them were no longer in existence.  Guess what?  We had been paying a little monthly fee for all those years for a phone we didn't use.  D.U.H.

Today, I got an email from telling me that there was a problem with the payment for my monthly fee of $15.99.  At this point, I'd like to thank the person who used our credit card number to make purchases in a foreign country last June.  If it hadn't been for you, Pierre, the fee would have been charged to us until the end of our natural born days.  My new charge card will forever remind me of your thoughtfulness.

I went to the site and tried to log on.  Sure enough,  I had a username and password written down in my secret-log-of-passwords.  When I tried to log in, the site didn't know me.  AHA!  Someone has signed me up for using my old credit card number!  So, I called the customer service department.

WARNING:  What you are about to read may cause you discomfort.  The details of my complete and total stupidity may be too much for you witness.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

I explained to the lady that I must have been hacked by someone in a foreign country and that I needed to know what all had been purchased on my behalf.  My expectation was that the matter would be resolved within minutes, and I would come out the winner in the case of Carolyn Lackey VS Internet Thief.

Not so much.

Long story somewhat short.  In August 2010, I was on the usps (UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE) site probably printing a click and ship label.  I was bedazzled by a little picture of a small home-use postal scale for FREE.  So, I clicked.  Since September 2010, I have been paying $15.99 per month for a service that I have never, ever used.  Even the customer service lady on the phone said, "Oh, I see!  Looks like there has never been any activity on this account."  Me:  "AHA!!  My point exactly!  I've never USED this account because I didn't know I'd signed up for it."  I assumed that her "Oh, I see!" was synonymous with "I'll refund your money!"  I assumed wrong.  Very, very wrong.

Yes...yes...yes...  Those are the answers to all of the questions that you're yelling at your monitor right now.  I know.  I know that, too.  I know.  I'm an idiot.  I will have to admit that I must have signed up for some trial offer.  Guess what? doesn't notify you when your trial offer expires.  They just giddyup on charging those monthly fees. 

Phone lady was really nice and offered to refund me 2 of the 36 months of service.  "Is there anyone else I can talk to?" I whimpered.  "Why, yes!  Do you mind if I put you on hold while I contact a supervisor?"  There is only one answer to that question.  "I'll hold."

Supervisor Lady was equally as nice.  I will have to give kudos for their customer service training.  Both ladies were able to convince me that they truly and sincerely "felt my pain."  Supervisor Lady said that she would give me the maximum refund ever offered in history.  Six monthsOf the thirty six months.

Even as I was explaining to her that I would NEVER signed up for a membership to their club because I'm just a mom who occasionally mails packages to her college sons, and I can do that for FREE on  The more I explained, the more stupid I felt.  I'm sure that Supervisor Lady put me on speaker phone at some point so that her co-workers could get their laugh-o'-the-day.  She's probably still retelling my story at the water cooler.  "And then she said,  'me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me.'" To which one of her comrades bellowed, "Boo-frickety-hoo, lady!  Boo-frickety-hoo!"

They had me over a barrel.  Judge Judy would make mincemeat out of my stupidity.  "See there in the size 2 font print?!  It's spelled out in plain English!  You shoulda read it!  You really, really shoulda read it!  Judgement for the Defendant!  You people need to read the fine print, for Pete's sake!"

Why didn't I notice the monthly charge on our Visa bill?  Good question.  I never look at it.  Alan pays the bills.  He told me that he remembers seeing it on the bill but assumed that it had to do with clicking and shipping which he knows I often do.  I must give him credit for never really questioning my purchases.  He's really sweet like that.  In this case, his sweetness coupled with my stupidity got expensive.

There you have it.   My cautionary confessional.  I'm sure that someday in the future I'll "Find the Funny" in this auto draft debacle.  Just as soon as I stop thinking of everything I could have bought with the $576 I paid for a service I never used.

I must commend ATT and brag on them.  They actually backtracked our account and refunded us about $200 for our obsolete rotary rental phone.

Go, my friend.  Search your Visa bill.  Turn your house over for lost overdue library books.  Did you remember to cancel your gas bill when you moved from the last house?  You, too, may be as blonde as me. 

Now.  Your turn!  Please confess. 


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Barbie Beefsteaks

Every Spring, Alan puts on his diggin' clothes and heads out to the alley to "turn over the soil" in our little garden plot.  You know the story if you've ever planted a garden with visions of vine-ripened tomatoes dancing in your head.  Fertilizer...plants...tomato cages...ka-ching...ka-ching...ka-ching.  Plant...plant...plant...  Then, you wait.  And wait.

Thanks to a man who works with my husband, we'll just call him Kirk T, the best way to get those 'maters to pollinatin' is to "encourage" the blossoms with an electric toothbrush.  You guessed it.  One afternoon I found Alan on our Back 40 encouraging some pollination with one of our pricey little Sonicaire toothbrushes.  "It really works!!" exclaimed 'Mater Pollinator.  "That's really gross!  That had better not be my brush!" exclaimed Grimacing Wife.  "I'm gonna rinse it off," 'Mater Pollinator promised.                                            

Granted our suburban manor sits on less than a quarter acre of land, but still we take daily strolls we like to call Walking the Property.  "Come on, Mama!  Let's Walk the Property!"  "Wait a minute, Daddy!  Let me grab my sweet tea!"  We check the flower beds and the potted plants.  The grand finale is checking on our pricey tomato garden.

This year we planted 6 tomato plants of various kinds none of which can I recall the name of unless I trot my little body out the back door, through the gate and into the alley.  Suffice it to say, the majority of the tomatoes are cherries.  

Little bitty teeny tiny eensy weensy cherries.  

Over the past few weeks, we have harvested handfuls of these tiny little gems.  Alan likes to just eat 'em as he picks 'em.  I would like to leave them for the birds.  They are mostly thick skin with a little bitty teeny tiny eensy weensy bit of actual tomato.  Rather tart.

 Today we dubbed this hybrid specimen the Barbie Beefsteak Tomato.

There you have it.  The fruit of our labor and ka-chings.  A bumper crop of Barbie Beefsteak Tomatoes.  woo.  hoo.  I place all the blame on the Kirk T. Sonicare Pollination Method.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Sad Day in Lubbock

I woke up at 5:30 this morning with a song on my mind.

Welllllllll...Ya got trouble, my friend, right here
I say trouble right here in Lubbock, Texas!

This morning the good people of West Texas woke up to the grim reality that our prized local grocery store dynasty had sold to Albertsons.  An uproar began to gather in the back of our throats followed by a howling "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" that rose from our lips.  If you're not from around these parts, you may think that this change is but a tempest in a West Texas teapot.
Let me explain.
When we moved to Lubbock 22 years ago, I was comforted by the sight of Albertsons.  I was an Albertsons shopper in Dallas.  It felt like home.  The aisles were arranged the same.  Everything was...well...the same.  I heard tales of higher prices at the local underdog, United Supermarkets.  "Ha!" said I, "Not only do I have familiarity under the Big A, but I also have cheaper hamburger meat and bananas!"
 It's not about the price of bananas.
Over the years, United began to blossom.  A new store opened up a few blocks from my house.  It was much closer than the Big A.  The prices were not exorbitantly higher.   And, low and behold, I began to notice that this new store didn't have the "old mop water smell" (my husband's words) as my familiar store.  This store was spotless and shiny.  The produce was fresh and plentiful.  The staff clean cut and cheerful.  If you asked an employee where to find a certain product, he would all but take you to the item in a horse-drawn carriage.  There was no complacent "Aisle 3 about the middle or maybe on an end cap."  Nope.  It's all "right this way, ma'am!"
Fresh.  Plentiful.  Spotless.  Shiny.  Clean cut.  Cheerful.
At first I couldn't figure out why there were no grocery cart corrals in the parking lot.  I soon discovered that they were not needed because once I pulled my cart up to the check out stand I wouldn't touch my groceries again until I unloaded them at home.  [Don't even get me started on stores that require the customer to unload the groceries onto a conveyor belt.]   Carry out service was a given.  The sackers are actually trained to make small talk as they escort you to your car.  If I've heard "How about this weather!?" once, I've heard it 1001 times. 
"So, how's your day going so far?!"
For my full rant about "carry out" service please refer to "Hey, Lazy, I mean "Lady"...Need a Carry Out?"
It's all about service.
To say that I'm a United Supermarket fan would be an understatement.  I am a United Aficionado.  When out-of-town guests come to visit, strolling through the 98th St. Market Street is part of the tour along with a drive through the Tech campus.  Just this past weekend, I took a dear friend there because she, too, is a Grocery Store Person.  She lives in a large metropolitan area in the northeast with lots of grocery store choices.  She was very complimentary of "my store."  "You won't get customer service like that in Maryland!"
It's the way we do it here.
We West Texans loves us some United.  We buy local.  We support the home team.  We trust United.  United supports our community.
We already ran off 3 Albertsons stores out of town.  They simply could not compete with our beloved United.  Now, they will own our beloved United.  This buyout is tantamount to Apple being sold to Gateway.  Seems like a step in the wrong direction.
Three Albertsons stores.  Gone.
We're told that "nothing will change."  That's what they said at First National Bank before the Wells Fargo Wagon was a-comin' down the street.  Subtle changes at first.  Logos.  Checking account policies.  Then, one day you turn around and all of the faces that were familiar to the customers have suddenly disappeared.
"Nothing will change."
For weeks, perhaps months, everything will be hunky-dory.  One day we'll find that the generic products on the shelves have changed from "Food Club" to "Essential Everyday."  Then, the sackers will say in perfect United-Albertson's trainee form, "Ma'am [politeness grandfathered in from United], do you need a carry out?  [The carry out issue will represent a cost effective/time wastage theory passed down from the Albertsons corporate office in IDAHO.]  Finally, grocery cart corrals will take up valuable parking spaces in front of the store.  Then will come the dreaded wobbly-wheeled baskets.  We United fans haven't had to deal with wobbly baskets.  There just aren't any.  
 Wobbly wheels.
I don't fault the owners of United for selling.  They earned every penny that they will make in the sale.  Out of their ingenuity, loyalty, and generosity, our beloved grocery stores were born.  We have great respect for the Snells and the Bumsteads.  I just wish that they could have traded up.  
We will miss you.


Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...